Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Arkon The Barbarian!
Before Conan the Barbarian, Roy Thomas cobbled together a few stabs at a barbarian. He created Starr the Slayer for a one-off story in Chamber of Darkness. And in the pages of his main ride The Avengers he gave the world Arkon the Magnificent, the ruler of the other-dimensional planet Polemachus.
We first encounter Arkon in a comic which doesn't even give this potent barbarian a cover glimpse. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch had been gone from the ranks of the Avengers for many months, passing through the Marvel Universe in the pages of the X-Men and elsewhere. Along with their momentary comrade The Toad, they seek a magic book which will give Wanda back her potent hex powers which had been mysteriously draining for some time.
Instead, they open a doorway to the dimension in which Polemachus exists. Polemachus is a world in which warfare had been long celebrated and only stifled when the life-giving rings of light which encircled the world began to weaken and wane. In an effort to reignite them the leader of a faction on Polemachus contrived a way to get to Earth. That man is Arkon the Magnificent, the supremely confident leader who seeks to use atomic weapons and the utter destruction of the Earth itself to heal his own world. He takes a fancy to Wanda and kidnaps her for good measure, along with some scientists with atomic talents. Quicksilver is desperate and seeks the Avengers for help.
They answer his call and confront Arkon who continues with his plan to blow up the Earth to give his own world life-giving light. We see in Arkon a cruel and brutal man who is used to winning and cannot even begin to empathize with those who will suffer so that he can win the day. He uses special thunderbolts of various kinds in his quiver to battle back against the Avengers who surprisingly find this barbarian a difficult opponent. But in the end Iron Man and the Black Panther are able to use their scientific skills to re-energize the rings of Polemachus making Arkon's desperate plan moot. He sort of thanks the Avengers and goes his merry way. Wanda and Pietro re-join the Assemblers.
A few months later Arkon turns up again in a story which includes the Black Knight. It seems the ruler of Polemachus has fallen under the thrall of the beautiful and seductive Enchantress and raises arms against the Avengers again.
Soon enough Roy would turn his talents to Conan and eventually leave the Avengers behind. But it's fascinating to see Thomas and the great John Buscema render their first "barbarian" together in these pages. While Arkon has super-powers, his look is pure Hyborian, or what will become that when Buscema is able to at long last put his stamp on that REH universe. To see more great Buscema-Palmer artwork check out this post on Arkon I did several years ago.